Digitization from Good to Great

After reading Jim Collins’ Good to Great, the first question that came to mind was, “Libraries don’t measure success by their stock performance so how can this apply to my situation?”. There is clearly value in the concepts of picking the right people, thinking deeply and clearly about your situation, and applying core understanding with rigor and consistency but the underlying metric of  success in economic terms is problematic.  Fortunately, he produced a supplemental piece called Good to Great and the Social Sectors to address this problem by tweaking the measurements of greatness so they can more directly apply to non-profits such as libraries in higher education.

Particularly useful is the clarification of output measures unique to the social sector and how to assess these outcomes through fulfillment of mission either in qualitative or quantitative terms.  On page 5, Collins says,

The confusion between inputs and outputs stems from one of the primary differences between business and the social sectors. In business, money is both an input (a resource for achieving greatness) and an output (a measure of greatness). In the social sectors, money is only an output, and not a measure of greatness.

Since money is not valuable as an output metric something else must take its place. He uses the Cleveland Orchestra as an example of what to focus on when assessing things that are hard to measure.  The three foci mentioned on page 6 concern finding evidence of superior performance, distinctive impact, and lasting endurance.

How could a digital library collect this type of evidence?  Using metrics from the Web is one way but that is still too close to a traditional input.  Getting testimonials from members of the university, other schools copying the digital library program, wider use in the classroom, and good brand reputation are several ways of determining outcomes of valued use and mission fulfillment.

One action to take from reading this book is to develop a “Hedgehog Concept” by deeply examining and defining your three circles from page 19:

1. What you are deeply passionate about –

organization’s core values and mission

2. What you can be best in the world at

unique contributions

3. What drives your resource engine (as opposed to economic in business)

3 parts – time, money and brand

Digitization efforts have a vast potential and the temptation is to try and pursue all of them.  However, success and greatness take disciplined planning and action.  Current examples at the CONTENTdm Upper Midwest User Group meeting demonstrated that this is true.  Those who are presenting successful programs had a good core focus and collected things that were unique to their institutions.  One factor that remains to be determined is the longevity of those programs as most have been around less than 5 years.

This book is very helpful for anyone who is planning a digital library program or wants to improve one that already exists. It helps to refocus effort and to take a step back to see if that effort is producing excellent results.


Learning 2.0 Outside of Libraries?

Michael Stephens posted part of a proposal to measure the effect of Learning 2.0 in Libraries and I wish him the best of luck.  Since the program began with Helene Blowers in 2006 it has been adopted by close to 1000 organizations worldwide proving that it is clearly a success in the library world. Why should we stop there?

Libraries are not the only groups that are struggling to understand the effect of Web 2.0.  The structure of Learning 2.0 provides the space for people to learn at their own pace and join a community of learners.  Why not open this opportunity to a larger community?  Librarians could lead the way in educating their communities about these tools.  For academic libraries, workshops centered around Learning 2.0 could be a valuable service for faculty or students.  Public libraries could extend this to the general public or specific communities like small businesses.

Has any library used Learning 2.0 as an outreach tool?  I would love to know.

Information Commons with Stacey Greenwell

First session at the Library Technology Conference at Macalester College. Stacey is Head of Information Commons (the Hub) at the University of Kentucky. Her interview with Michael Stephens on ALA TechSource in September 2008 is a good introduction to the concept. Stacey also has a blog, The Uncommon Commons.

The basic concept is that libraries combine the traditional reference service with IT technical support at the same location within the library. Stacey is a leading voice in this model. Her talk focuses on applying it in other libraries. She came from public libraries.

What is it?

1999 – Coined by librarian Walter?

Learning Commons is viewed as more specialized version of Information Commons but she thinks they are synonymous.

Well equipped with tech supplies and supported by librarians and technologists. Has scanners, plotters, etc. but must also have staff to support. Not just glorified computer lab.  Even can have fun and parties there.

Why have one?

  • Draws students (some libs have 80%? of students in building)
  • Encourage active learning (group projects)
  • Expand available technology (more partnerships with other departments)
  • Just in time IT suppport (passwords)
  • Computer management uniformity
  • Expand infrastructure (cell phone access – repeater on top of building) 

Planning and Lessons Learned

  • Timing was right – goal to be top 20 research, mandated by State Leg.
  • Talked to other inst. Obtained funding, produced whitepaper
  • Working Group formed
    • (all campus groups, architect, interior designer. student group)
  • Field work
    • met with students, faculty, Facebook group

How they got the name – “The Hub”

Met with students to see what they would call it.  Also found out what students currently called the library, Willy T’s.

Actual location was centrally located in the building.

Better marketing of the service. Didn’t like “Commons”.

Library Help

Hours – 1-10pm

Students wanted more

IT help

 Passwords, Laptop, Wireless

Took some struggle for them to be involved

At first they weren’t doing much, but had them answer the phones.

Became distributed help desk throughout campus.

Mac Lab

IT has student consultants to help with this

Power bar – Phone chargers, adapters

Student Computer Lab

Regular meetings between staff

AV Services

Check out Laptops – not everyone has them contrary to popular assumption.


Herman Miller – Brand

Canopy Work Island – has white plastic above

Caper chair – good 15 year warranty

Tall Tables for open access – ADA compliance

Lounge chairs – comfortable but would be better if they would roll.

Whiteboards – Most popular item.  Do serious and fun things on them. (she takes pictures of them to share on Flickr)

Markers run out and have to be replaced (significant expense)

Food and Beverage

Demand was high for this service.

Fewer spills because people are more honest when spills happen.

Use vending machines – wanted Starbucks but were denied.

Video Windows

Ceiling mounted Video windows

Can play video games, show video

Creatives exhibits – Mustaches of the 1900’s (highlights special collections) – appeared on Boing Boing.

White Board Signs

Flat Panel Displays – wishes she hadn’t gotten them. Not looked at


Floor sign is really popular. Projector enabled by wireless card.  Private network of laptop connected to projector.

Special Events

Hubbub Party – 800 students attended!

Prize drawing – but doesn’t want to do it again. Takes a lot of time. Kids enjoyed but she didn’t

Pizza – bought 100, long line

Pop a shot basket ball rental – kids loved but broke it.

Balloon Animals – they loved it (200 bucks) she would definitely do it again.

Video games on projectors

Guitar Hero was set up even at Dell’s Campus.

Tarot Card Reading

Makeovers – Approached business and said that it could be a good marketing opportunity

Photo booth

plastic green cloth, batch of props, camera, release form, Photoshop

Halloween hand out candy – show kids they care


Library Stats database from University of Wisconsin

Can be dowloaded at Google Open Source Area

Used stats from here to get more Wireless Access. Kept sending problem reports to CIO.

Door Counts


Press releases

Students wrote one up unsolicited in a Newsletter.

Promotional video

Effect of Mobile Technology on Library Service

This article from First Monday is a very good overview of the effects that mobile technology has on the types of service libraries provide and the overall shift in how people access the Internet.

Clips from the article and my comments are below.

  • Dempsey, Lorcan. “Always on: Libraries in a world of permanent connectivity” First Monday [Online], Volume 14 Number 1 (30 December 2008)

      • Good to find ways to collaborate positively and support common goals. – post by kgerber
    • “(a physical place to meet, a toolbar, a set of services in the course management system, a FaceBook application, a set of RSS feeds, office hours in a school or department, and so on).”
      • Many ways the library can be percieved by a patron. – post by kgerber
    • “For example, in his book about VLEs (that is, learning or course management systems), Weller (2007) talks about the changing, and sometimes politically difficult, relationship between the library and e–learning developments.”
    • For this reason, developments in the consumer and retail space will increasingly outpace those in enterprise or educational contexts, and many enterprise or educational services will have substitute or rival products in the consumer space (Stokes, 2008). Think, for example, of what is happening with e–mail, where people may use their Gmail account in preference to an institutional one…The university, library, or work environment can no longer expect to provide a more sophisticated digital environment than that which is available in the general consumer space.”
      • Highlights how some users have familiarity with applications that are not yet available or of less quality within business and academic institutions. Library can be informal or formal support because we pay attention to new and useful trends – post by kgerber
    • “From a conceptual point of view, the widgetization adopted by Facebook, iGoogle and netvibes weighed strongly on our initial thinking. We wanted to build the foundation and DNA of the new site in line with the ongoing trend and evolution of the Internet towards dynamically generated and syndicable content through technologies like RSS, atom and xml. This trend essentially abstracts the content from its presentation and distribution, atomizing content into a feed–based universe. Browsers, devices, etc therefore become lenses through which this content can be collected, tailored and consumed by the audience (Titus, 2007).”
      • Essential consideration for Web design. Must think beyond the desktop. – post by kgerber
    • “Rave Wireless (http://www.ravewireless.com/). Boopsie indexes content from providers and makes it available in mobile–friendly ways. Rave Wireless provides services to meet communication needs across whole campus populations through various infrastructure services. These include alerting, security, and various information services (video, shuttle bus locations).”
      • Saw Rave this at the Maryland Web 2.0 conference. Still had issues implementing system but students did mention that they liked it. – post by kgerber
    • “An institution cannot necessarily rely on one vehicle — e–mail or texting, for example — to reach everyone in a timely way.”
    • “Second, recent discussion of social networks has highlighted the importance of ‘social objects’: the shared interests around which people affiliate, such as photographs, movies, music, and holiday destinations”
      • Think about using these items in classes or training to motivate and build a cohesive unit. – post by kgerber
    • “This attention scarcity is apparent also in the academic environment where a bouncing and skimming style of consumption has been observed (Nicholas, et al., 2006). Palmer, et al. (2007) talk about actual ‘reading avoidance’. Researchers may survey more material, but spend less time with each item, relying on abstracts and other content clues to avoid reading in full.”
      • Websites should reflect this because it already supports the conventional wisdom that content on a Website should be short. – post by kgerber

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Journal TOC Current Awareness Tool

The ticTOCs Journal Table of Contents Service from Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) provides the Table of Contents from over 11,000 journals for free.  Faculty who want assistance in keeping up with new research in their field would appreciate this service.  The notification is through RSS only limting the usefulness to those who use RSS.  Librarians could email the contents of feeds for those who are less tech savvy as a service.

Thanks to Richard Ackerman of Science Library Pad for bringing this service to my attention.

Librarians must go forth

Yet another reason that librarians cannot just sit at their desks and expect to do their job emerged in Lifehack’s post about where to go for answers on the Internet. It overlooks libraries completely.

Do we just sit and take it? No, lets go to those places and answer questions and make it clear that we are librarians. Someone on the LITA (Library and Information Technology Association) listserv initiated a day for librarians to go to Yahoo Answers and answer questions. This should be an effort joined by many librarians.

The article in Information Today’s blog, Putting the Library in Wikipedia, advocated adding relevant and authoritative references to Wikipedia articles. This way we can add value to a resource that people are already using and direct people to quality resources.  This method also matches the accepted practice and culture of the Wikipedia community who will delete items that do not fit those guidelines.